On 24th March, a video of six popular UK TikTokers air slapping to We Will Rock You was uploaded to @ByteSquadHQ.
The clip, captioned “Welcome to the ByteHouse”, was intended to signify that the social media stars had moved into an undisclosed London pad together.
And it worked. Within minutes observant fans had flooded the comment section with fire emojis. The general consensus? “This is gonna be better than Hype House.”
Content houses are nothing new. The trend, which sees popular social stars move in together to churn out around the clock content, has grown in popularity in the last few years due to their ability to cross-pollinate creator’s audiences.
Team 10 – set up by controversial YouTuber Jake Paul – began living and collaborating together in an LA mansion three years ago. Hype House saw a flurry of collectives spring up in the same city this January. While even global pop superstar Rihanna jumped “pon” the bandwagon, opening a Fenty branded version back in March (it was swiftly shuttered due to the COVID-19 outbreak). What sets Bytehouse apart, however, is that it’s the first time a “TikTok House” has reached UK shores – a milestone that occurred in the midst of a global pandemic.
“We moved in just before lockdown was announced,” explains 19-year-old member KT Franklin via Zoom. “It’s nice to be isolated with your best mates.”
The ByteSquad, as the ByteHouse inhabitants are known, include 19-year-old model-turned-influencer KT Franklin; 22-year-old slow motion creator SurfaceLdn; 17-year-old cover singer Monty Keates; 19-year-old skit creator Shauni Kibby; 20-year-old #actingwars challenger Sebby Wood; and 20-year-old Lily Rose, who has acquired 1.1 million followers thanks to her funny takes on viral TikTok trends.
Online friends for years, the six creators first met IRL at a London social media convention in August 2019. Jake Sweet, aka Surface LDN, and Kibby are currently in a relationship – as are Wood and Keates – while Franklin and Lily Rose are former romantic partners turned besties. They have an astonishing 14 million collective TikTok followers, with videos reaching more than 73 million users a week.
It’s an online clout that has enabled @ByteSquadHQ to attract 4.4million likes. Each post on the channel currently averages at 800,000 views, while their most popular, a spoof about LA counterpart Hypehouse, has 1.9 million views.
“We are definitely more family orientated [than Hype House],” Franklin says. “Because it’s a smaller group, it’s more concentrated and we all get on really well.”
“Our content is also more diverse,” adds Keates. “Katy does her voice stuff. Some of us do dancing, some of us do comedy, makeup, acting.”
A typical day in the Bytehouse goes like this: wake up at 9 or 10am, have breakfast and film TikTok content till about 7pm. The house goes live each night, answering follower questions while suggesting ways to stay entertained during lockdown. Their manager Lucy Wood lives with them, making sure weekly care packages of food and other essential supplies are dropped off.
“It’s really cool because this is what we were doing individually at home. So it’s not even like it’s work – this is just an average day anyway,” says Keates.
The company behind Bytehouse is the London-based, 40-strong agency Fanbytes. Headed by a 24-year-old CEO, Timothy Armoo, they’ve become the to-go voice on Gen Z strategy for brands.
“TikTok is now the medium for finding the next generation of presentators and entertainers who will eventually make the shift to TV,” says Armoo, “I see the next Graham Norton or the next Alan Carr coming up off social media.”
Armoo predicts that 90% of the Bytehouse content will be organic, with 10% of it being sponsored. “The sponsored content will still feel natural though,” the young entrepreneur quickly points out, alluding to their current partnership with What Do You Meme?, which has the group play the card game during their weekly games nights.
“It’s a nice distraction amidst all this coronavirus anxiety. I know that a lot of audiences are really happy and tell us that they feel less lonely when they watch our content,” says Keates.
While 230k followers is nothing to be sniffed at, it’s still pretty dwarfed by the Hype House’s suffocatingly big 14.5m.
“We are the first in the UK which is something to be proud of,” says Wood, “the fact we’ve actually done a house in the U.K. will open a lot of doors for future creators in the U.K. to do something similar.”
Franklin agrees: “It’s so early and we’ve already achieved so much. It’s [@ByteHouseSquadHQ] one week in and it’s already got 15million views already. We’ve got so many more things coming – it’s going to be insane.”